Stopping in to review an Alabama winery. Is there great wine to be had in the deep south? The answer is a definitive yes.
The last week in July 2019, my husband and were planning a trip for our 35th anniversary. We decided to stop in Birmingham, Alabama, and then head to the Florida panhandle’s beaches along 30-A. I also wanted to find a stop among Alabama wineries along our route and chose Ozan Vineyard & Winery in Calera, Alabama.
Ozan serves a light lunch, is open Tuesday through Sunday, and has tastings as well as convenient access from Hwy 65.
I selected Ozan Vineyard & Winery from an expanding group of Alabama wineries based on the convenient location south of Birmingham and great yelp reviews for weekday visits. Additionally, Ozan also serves a lovely lunch, is open six days a week, has tours, a distillery, award winning wines, and the best part, wine tastings.
Located off 65 at Exit 228, Ozan is a few minutes off the highway. Take exit 228 and turn left onto Hwy 25 crossing the overpass. Follow the signs to 173 Hwy 301, Calera, Alabama 35040. (205)668-6926. The winery is open 10am to 6pm Tuesday through Saturday, and Sunday 12-6.
There are several delights listed including Café Vino on site serving wine and lunch daily from 12-3, reservations recommended. Walkups or walk-ins are welcome, but lunch reservations made our day worry free.
I chose the daily tasting of over a dozen wines with keepsake glass available with onsite purchase and gourmet lunch. We booked it online with a note about my gluten free needs. (As I usually do, I reminded our server of my gluten and corn allergies at lunch.)
Ozan was easy to find and clearly marked with a pretty drive. The entrance revealed a charming winery on a rise overlooking the vineyard. We parked down the hill, but there is handicapped parking available for those unable to climb the slight hill. Both of us remarked almost immediately about how pleasant the veranda was with its great view of the vineyard.
I checked in with Chris, the friendly guy behind the counter inside and let him know we were two hours early. He was starting a tour, but said he would return shortly and could accommodate us early. On his advice, we grabbed a water and found a nice table to enjoy the view while we waited for our tasting and lunch. It is worth a mention that there were plenty of tables both indoors and out, but the view and breeze were so nice, we chose outdoors.
As soon as we sat down, my travel stress left my body. The temperature was in the low 80’s and sitting on the veranda in the light breeze was hypnotically relaxing. We both just leaned back and let the vineyard’s soft jazz wash over us.
Not long after we arrived, Chris led us through the wine tasting accompanied by a cheese plate. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber of the plate we sampled. The gourmet cheeses (and breads and crackers for the other patrons) were beautiful and well selected. As we made our way through the tasting, we savored every wine. These are small samples of wine, suitable for a tasting, so you will not be overwhelmed by the amounts.
You need to allow some time for the tasting and lunch if you choose that option. Southern lunches are known for lingering.
The website shows a two hour window and Ozan is not a rush a crowd through place. Our tasting group on a Tuesday at 11:30am was about six couples including a set of international visitors and no one was in a hurry. Since there were twelve wines to try, I took notes on the sheet we were given to choose some wines to take with us.
Next, we enjoyed our lunch of chicken kabobs (one of three menu choices) and pickled vegetables as we were winding up the tasting. As a gluten free guest, I enjoyed mine without the bread. It was so refreshing and low key that my husband and I talked about returning on a fall Saturday and touring a couple more of Alabama wineries.
Besides the lunch option, there is also a weekday only cellar tour and tasting special at $29 for two. After enjoying a tasting, I think that is a value! There is also a souvenir glass and wine tasting for $12 a person with cheese plate available for separate purchase without lunch, but I am so glad we did the Café Vino lunch as well.
Weekends at Ozan also boast a train ride and tasting, but several reviewers noted it was busy on summer weekends. For the best experience, I would make reservations and check reviews for things to look out for. In October, there are weekend pumpkin and festival train events that sound intriguing, so check Ozan’s site for information.
If you are expecting a huge sophisticated winery or amusement park atmosphere, this is not the stop for you. Our lovely weekday visit was to Ozan was more of the quaint, quiet, refined, and restful variety instead. I am curious as to a weekend visit, so I look forward to trying it. In comparison to a few of the other vineyards, Ozan doesn’t have a gift shop at the time of this review 8/11, but the wine and spirits selection was wonderful.
For the wine lover, the tastes and types of wines are varied, but include whites, reds, and specialty wines. After sampling the twelve wines in our flight, we chose to purchase and take with us the following:
From the whites:
Ozan’s Sauvignon Blanc, a lightly oaked refreshing table wine.
In specialty wines we chose:
The Peach semi-sweet is incredible. Made from Alabama Chilton peaches, it tastes like summer in the south. I don’t like sweet wine, but the flavor is amazing and I took home two bottles. If my Alabama winery tour only consisted of this Peach semi-sweet, I would have still gone home happy.
I also chose the Shelby Blanc Gold Medal winner made with Scuppernong grapes, which reminded me of Alabama weekends eating muscadines at my grandmother’s house. For our fall table, my husband chose the Founders Cut Apple which is cellared in Bourbon Oak barrels.
We picked up several of the reds we sampled. Our favorite was the Cuvee Rouge which we shared with our family and all agreed it was a smooth red that is a great alone or with a meal. Barrel aged, it is a Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet blend.
The Gold Medal winning Pinot Noir was beautifully berry and vanilla with an oak finish.
There is also a distillery onsite at Ozan where Tuesday through Saturday, you can enjoy a 3:30 Distillery tour and tasting for $24 a person. We haven’t tried it yet, but will give it a go next time!
Notably, Ozan was awarded Alabama Winery of the year for 2015 and has many award winning wines. As a weary traveler, it was simple to find and a refreshing start to our vacation, so I recommend a weekday visit. Soon we will try a weekend and add to our review.
Other southern Alabama Wineries
Beautiful Corbin Farms has a wider lunch menu, but is only open Thursday through Sunday 12-3, so shorter hours (except Saturdays until 6).
Also in Calera, Alabama, we could have visited Corbin Farms Winery (formerly Vizzinini), but it is only open Thursday through Sunday and we were travelling through on a Tuesday. Corbin Farms has a larger lunch menu including desserts, and a tasting available with logo glass and six wines. The bistro is open Thursday through Sunday from 12-3. In reviews, visitors noted the beautiful venue, staff friendliness, and local musicians ambience. For those who support the military, the owner is a former Army Ranger and offers a Support Our Troops wine in addition to their many other offerings.
Corbin Farms Winery
open Thursday-Sunday from 12 -3, and until 6 on Saturday.
800 Highway 87 , Calera, Alabama 35040
Morgan Creek in Harpersville has a gift shop and complimentary tastings, does not serve lunch, but is open Monday through Saturday.
I also located Morgan Creek Vineyards on the map 34 minutes SE of Birmingham in Harpersville. It is open Monday through Saturday, but it was a little out of our way for this particular trip and does not serve lunch at the time of this review. In comparison to Ozan’s simpler set up, Morgan Creek Vineyards does have a gift shop and complimentary tastings and there are many public events like a grape stomp, so check their site.
181 Morgan Creek Lane, Harpersville, Alabama 35078. Phone: (877) 672-2053
Open Monday through Saturday 10am to 6pm.
From Birmingham, take 280 east for 26 miles to Harpersville. Take a right on Al 25 for half a mile, turn right on County Rd 444, Left on Dead Hollow Road.
From the information on their site: Morgan Creek Vineyards offers complimentary tours and tastings. Two generations of the Brammer family created and run the vineyard which is known for muscadine and fruit wines, semi-sweet to sweet.
I am looking forward to sampling the Peach, the Cahaba White, and the Vulcan Red.
We missed the July 4th Music and Fireworks in the vineyard, but there is a Grape Stomp September 19, 2019. Several reviews on Trip Advisor mentioned blueberry picking too.
We also considered trying Perdido, which is the oldest farm winery in Alabama.
It will be our next winery day when we are travelling near Mobile.
Compared to the other vineyards in southern Alabama, Perdido Vineyards in Perdido, Alabama has the most available hours for visiting (Monday through Saturday 10-5) but they do not serve lunch.
They do have a gift shop, and no appointment is needed for the complimentary tasting.
You will find award winning balsamic vinegars in addition to wines and wine tasting.
Exit 45 off 65, 10-5 daily except Sunday
22100 County Road 47, Perdido Alabama 36562
Jim and Marianne Eddins
Side note: Other stops and ideas while near Mobile could include Wintzell’s Oyster House w 4-7 happy hour or the beautiful Bellingrath Gardens. For Bellingrath, plan at least 1/2 day for a 45 minute cruise on the Southern Belle, tour of the mansion, and its rose and Japanese gardens.
I hope you enjoy a couple of these wineries in southern Alabama. I intend to try them all and will keep you posted! My good things list is growing.
Barefoot, sipping, and writing,